Saturday 21 November 2015 – Chelsea 1 Norwich 0
On the back of some improved performances and Jose looking a lot more relaxed and happier at his pre match press conference, we returned from yet another international break to resume our league campaign.
And in a week that saw atrocities committed in Paris on November 13th, the club added its own tributes to those demonstrated at England’s friendly game against France at Wembley earlier in the week. Personally I felt that playing La Marseillaise at Stamford Bridge was probably unnecessary on top of other fitting tributes, but it was certainly a moving moment with the Tricolour on display in the Matthew Harding.
To the game then, and good to see the return of Branislav Ivanovic in our back four, alongside JT and Kurt Zouma, with a surprise start for Kenedy at left back and Begovic still covering between the sticks. With Fabregas and Matic, our attacking options were Willian and Pedro, with Hazard sitting behind Costa up front. On the bench Blackman, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Traore, Ramires, Oscar and Remy. Also a return to the bench for Jose, having served his one match stadium ban last time out. Hopefully the rest has done everyone the power of good!
With high expectations from the home fans, our boys set about their task positively, Pedro, Willian and Hazard linking up well with Fabregas and Matic to provide the service for our lone striker. But at times our lone striker was nowhere to be seen, missing in action in the centre of the box. But who needs a centre forward when you have a centre back who can recreate a Zola-esque near post flick from Willian’s corner, reminiscent of our past legend’s more successful effort against Norwich back in 2002? What a cheeky move from JT, although would have been better had it come off!
But while we dominated play with some quality possession, Norwich always offered a threat especially while the scores remained level. Our best chance of the half came on 25 minutes when some creative build up play around the box finished with a probing cross from Pedro that found Costa in front of goal only for his close range shot to go way over the crossbar.
Just after the half hour our man of the moment Willian managed to bundle Brady over in the box who, let’s face it, was just standing there waiting for it to happen, but no foul committed according to the ref as he waved play on. Lucky boy to get away with that though. But the ref did get his own back a few moments later when he booked Willian for directing his throw-in at Bassong’s face, who was standing right over him at the time. Petty!
Such a positive first half, Eden Hazard looking well on the way to his speed bursting best, and one of his bursts of pace resulted in a superb low ball across the face of the goal only to find no one in the box, with flat footed Costa just looking on. But as we continued to put wave after wave of pressure on the Norwich goal we could easily have been awarded a penalty ourselves when Bassong looked to have roughed up Costa, not easy to do!
And in a final flurry of the half, JT blocked a clear shot on goal from the visitors, which immediately led to a breakaway move with the young Kenedy tearing down the wing, finding an unmarked Costa in the box, only for the pink wellied one to block the shot. A great first half, with the score still 0-0.
Into the second half and lots of early pressure from our boys. But with so many chances going begging, surely it’s just a matter of time before we converted one of them?
The breakthrough finally arrived just after the hour, when a quickly taken free kick from the half way line by Fabregas, launched ahead of Costa who was already on his way upfield in anticipation, and by the time he reached the goal he had time to pick his spot past Ruddy into the bottom corner. The goal was no less than we deserved.
And with that, the first rendition of ‘Jose Mourinho’ from the fans, performances like this taking our minds off our beleaguered manager for much of the game. The fans were clearly in a positive mood, singing ‘We’re Gonna Win The League’. Just love football fans’ dry sense of humour!
And we nearly doubled our lead when one of Willian’s special free kicks found Kurt Zouma’s boot, only to clatter off the cross bar. Willian had plenty of free kicks during the game, the Norwich players regularly resorting to foul play to halt our many forays on goal.
Into the final few minutes of the game and we slowed the play right down, just as our visitors did when they thought they were defending a point. Into the last 10 minutes and our first substitution saw the industrious Pedro replaced by Oscar and a few minutes later Ramires came on for the equally busy Willian.
But while there was only one goal in it there was always the chance of falling victim to the last gasp equaliser, so those last few minutes were pretty tense. Approaching stoppage time and our final substitution saw Azpilicueta come on for Eden Hazard, leaving the pitch to a rousing round of applause, the crowd appreciating the performance more fitting to last season’s player of the year.
Not sure where the 4 minutes of stoppage time came from and it seemed a lot longer as we nervously rode out the final half threats that our yellow visitors posed. So, relief at the final whistle, a precious 3 points in bag. A great game of football, and with the exception of the wandering Costa who did redeem himself with the goal, everyone played their part, working hard on and off the ball and also working hard for each other. Hopefully the confidence is continuing to build as we move forward.
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